Flying around the Isle of Dawn on a pegasus. Good times.
Due to the recent problems with SOE they gave me a free 45 days of Vanguard: Saga of Heroes. Before this I had only ever played the demo, and never gave it a serious try. Well, after just over a week of gameplay I think I’m done with the game. Is it because it’s a bad game? Nope. So what’s the problem? Well, first why don’t we cover the reasons why I want to love Vanguard.
-Things I Love About Vanguard-
Three Spheres: Character progression in Vanguard is split into three spheres. Adventuring includes your usual questing/killing mobs. Crafting is just what it sounds like, and Diplomacy is a collectable card game. Each of these spheres levels independently, and theoretically you could get to the level cap in Diplomacy without ever attacking a mob. You’ll get quests for all three spheres, depending on your level, and each sphere can be a lot of fun.
Leveling Speed: The leveling in Vanguard is MUCH slower than something like WoW, and I play MMOs to level. Once I get to end game I get bored quickly and start a new alt, so making the initial leveling take longer is something I can really get behind. When you consider the fact that each character has three spheres to get to level cap, this increases the leveling time exponentially, and really sends you out to explore the world.
Interesting Classes: Oftentimes MMOs have only a handful of classes, and they usually are pretty standard fair. A warrior, paladin, some kind of rogue, a non-magic ranged dps and a mage and priest. Vanguard has some truly unique and interesting classes, like the Psionicist.
Crafting is Amazing: Seriously, I used to think Everquest II had the best crafting in the MMO space, but I’ve changed my mind after delving into it on Vanguard. Not only can you level crafting completely independent of adventuring, including gear that looks cool and has stats effecting crafting, but each time you craft anything you gain skill. Once you’ve gained enough skill new abilities become available to use, if you have the right tools that is.
The Isle of Dawn Story: I can’t speak for the entirety of the outside world, but the story inside the Isle of Dawn was interesting, much more so than any MMO story I’ve run into yet. It had surprise twists that changed how things were playing out, especially if you read the information you get from the Diplomacy quests and Diplomacy itself.
Size of the World: The outside world, once you leave the Isle of Dawn, is vast. I mean, seriously you aren’t going to get across it anytime soon. It’s so big you’re given a mount right away in order to allow you to get from place to place in a good amount of time.
Different Places Are Different: What the heck does that mean? Simply that when you go to a new country in this game it really is a different country. You’ll have to learn entirely different crafting styles appropriate to the region you are in.
Defensive Target: I’ve loved this in every game I’ve ever seen it in. There is something amazing about being able to target an enemy while also keeping a friendly targeted for heals, hots, buffs etc. There’s no excuse not to have it in this day and age, and Vanguard has it.
Multiple ‘Energy’ Bars: Each class I tried had two energy bars, mana and stamina. When I use a melee ability it drains stamina, but if I cast it drains mana. It makes a lot of sense, but I haven’t seen it in many other games. Usually you get one type of energy, often mana, and that’s used for all of your abilities.
-What I Dislike About Vanguard-
Graphics: First off I know some people like this style of graphics, but I find anything with the ‘SOE style’ atrocious and just ugly as sin. The character models are a mix between EQ and EQII, both of which have some terrible character models, and that makes Vanguards characters truly awful to behold. From their massive shoulders to the odd stance they are always in, from the textures to the animations the characters in Vanguard are FUGLY. The landscape isn’t much better. It’s well designed to be sure, but the art department apparently couldn’t afford anything but fired SOE terribad artists. The worst part about the graphics is what I like to call “PS2” lighting. Many SOE games, including EQ, EQII and Vanguard, have what I like to think of as early PS2 lighting. It’s flat and does nothing to warm the world. It leaves everything 2 dimensional and boring, and I hope it doesn’t invade “EQ Next”.
Diplomacy is Frustrating: I’m OK with failing sometimes. I don’t like to, but it makes the winning so much sweeter. My ideal form of diplomacy in Vanguard would be designing a deck out of hundreds of cards and having it used in ALL diplomacy missions, with maybe a backup deck or two for those few types of battles my deck just can’t handle. Instead you are given a handful of cards, and every parley starts the same: Click diplomacy option, start match, get smoked while observing what types of cards they use and what their Bullshit cards take to fuel, then building a deck around that, then failing and refining until you win, then doing the same for the next parley. Imagine having to spend twenty minutes, and several deaths, for every mob you fought in a game. It’s horrible, and it’s designed horribly. A good idea that just wasn’t implemented well.
It’s Dying: I know people throw that around a lot in the world of MMOs, but Vanguard really is. According to the official website, the last update was over a year ago, and that was a hotfix. They simply aren’t developing ANYTHING new for the game, and while that doesn’t stop me from enjoying the content already there, it does make it feel like my achievements are less permanent.
The Combat Feels…Off: I can’t really explain this one too well. The basic idea is that it feels floaty. I’ll kill mobs, only to have them finish whatever animation they were doing, even a long casting animation, before falling to the ground. You press the button for attacks and it doesn’t feel responsive, and sometimes the graphic shows your cooldown as over, but the button won’t press for another few seconds. The running and jumping feels just as floaty, but it’s the odd lag in the combat that gets me most. It reminds me of the same laggy feeling LOTRO first had with it’s combat, which has since been improved, if not fixed completely. At least in EverQuest II the combat feels gratifying and forceful, especially when you complete a combo and get a big animation for your spell. Vanguard just falls flat in this area.
-What Does This Mean?-
Well the three biggest parts of the game, Adventuring, Crafting and Diplomacy, are great ideas. I just don’t happen to like the implementation of two of them. I really enjoy the crafting, but that’s simply not enough to keep me involved, especially without an Ultima Online style economy. I wanted to enjoy Vanguard and play it till end game, but I couldn’t last more than a week. Sure, it might pick up, but the core of the experience isn’t going to change anytime soon, and I’m not going to keep playing a game I’m just not really enjoying in the hopes that it will magically become enjoyable for me.
I won’t get rid of the game from my hardrive, at least for the rest of the 45 days I got free, and I may give it another go as I try to get farther in the game, but I simply doubt it. I’ve got other games to play, and other MMOs to play if that’s what I feel like. For instance, I’m currently re-downloading EQII for my free 45 days of that game. Let me know what you think/thought of the game in the comments.
See you all around.